Victorian-era ghost stories about dark divination

Dark Divinations: fourteen stories about Victorian Press Presents: Dark Divinations edited by Naching T. Kassa. Book Trailer: It’s the height of Queen Victoria’s rule. Fog swirls in the gas-lit streets, while in the parlor, hands are linked. Pale and expectant faces gaze upon a woman, her eyes closed and shoulders slumped. The medium speaks, her tone hollow and inhuman. The seance has begun. Join us as we explore fourteen frightening tales of Victorian horror, each centered around a method of divination. Can the reading of tea leaves influence the future? Can dreams keep a soldier from death in the Crimea? Can a pocket watch foretell a deadly family curse? From entrail reading and fortune-telling machines to prophetic spiders and voodoo spells, sometimes the future is better left unknown. Choose your fate. Choose your DARK DIVINATION. What follows below is an excerpt from my story “The Bell.” Continue reading →

Great musical humor in “I Love Lucy”

Lucy and EthelSitcoms do not often use musical humor. “I Love Lucy,” by contrast, represents a high watermark of such humor. The reason? The show’s premise involves a bandleader and his bumbling wife who strives to get into show business. The combination of Lucille Ball’s comedic timing, the writing, and the chemistry between the four primary actors delivered iconic episodes that remain widely watched over half a century after they first aired. Often, the comedy originates in the contrast between what is going on musically and what is going on visually. Here is an overview of the episodes that used musical humor. While there are more episodes than this in which humor occurs during musical numbers (such as the episode where Ricky learns Lucy is pregnant while serenading the audience), I’ve focused on those episodes where music is used specifically for humorous effect. Continue reading →

New book celebrates subversive music throughout history

Music: A Subversive HistoryIn Music: A Subversive History, Ted Gioia makes the case that music has challenged cultural norms throughout the ages. This constant reinvention not only helps music flower artistically but facilitates cultural change. What frightens the establishment in one generation gets embraced (and often co-opted) by the establishment a generation or more later. Gioia calls this force “creative destruction.” Music helps tear down walls, liberating society from arbitrary codes designed to control behavior. Tracing this pattern through four thousand years of history, Gioia shows how the force of change usually originates in outsiders and marginalized groups. I like the description from the dust jacket: “Music is essential reading for anyone interested in the hidden sources of music’s timeless power, from Sappho to the Sex Pistols to Spotify.” Continue reading →

Lisa Fisher gives transcendent performance—again!

Lisa FisherIf you’ve never heard Lisa Fisher in concert, you are missing a musical experience that will transport you to another realm. Last night, I attended my third Lisa Fisher concert since 2016, my only regret being that I didn’t know about her years earlier. Words are inadequate to describe these experiences. Transcendent, clearly. Chills, yes. She touches some nerve deep inside you, aided by her astounding backup band Grand Baton and music director J.C. Maillard. They perfectly complement her style, supporting the music with revelatory arrangements of familiar tunes that shake your soul. Continue reading →